February 3, 2014
By Kevin Weedmark
Arthur-Virden remains a Tory stronghold.
Voters in the western Manitoba riding, which includes Elkhorn, McAuley, and Kola, elected Progressive Conservative Doyle Piwniuk with 68 per cent of the vote—the highest percentage for the PCs since the riding was formed.
The NDP—the perennial second-place finishers in Arthur-Virden, saw their vote collapse in the byelection.
NDP candidate Bob Senff received only 480 votes, or 10 per cent, compared with 2,282 or 30 per cent for NDP candidate Garry Draper in the 2011 general election.
Liberal Floyd Buhler finished second this time around, with 738 votes or 16 per cent of the total, and the Green Party’s Kate Storey received 245 votes, or five per cent.
The PC vote has increased in the riding in every election since 1999.
The 68 per cent in the 2014 byelection compares with 66 per cent in 2011, 64 per cent in 2007, 53 per cent in 2003, and 49 per cent in 1999.
MLA Doyle Piwniuk said he wasn’t surprised by his margin of victory.
“It was pretty much what I expected,” he said.
“It’s been a PC riding for many years, but we wanted to make sure we had some good numbers to send a message to the rest of Manitoba.
“We want to show the PC party has the momentum to build on its support.
“We increased our number in this riding, and the NDP vote was way down—in a way it was a referendum on the PST increase that we should have had and we didn’t.”
Besides the PST, Piwniuk says the other issues that were on voters’ minds were forced municipal amalgamation and infrastructure.
“When you have so many local governments in this riding that were forced into situations that they felt may not be good for them in the long term, you’re going to have some anger,” Piwniuk says.
“You had a lot of municipalities that were already sharing resources.
“Oak Lake and Sifton, were almost finalizing their agreement, and other municipalities and towns were working together—Hamiota and the RM of Hamiota have been sharing facilities and costs—they were living together, but the government forced them to get married.”
Infrastructure is a big concern, says Piwniuk.
“We produce so much revenue from this part of the province, but a lot of that revenue is going into the government and not coming back to reinvest in our crumbling infrastructure.
“We built these rural roads thinking the largest thing on them would be a grain truck, now just about every large farmer has a semi truck, and with the oil industry, we have bigger and bigger equipment on the roads.
“More and more people are moving into the area, and the roads are getting busier.”
Piwniuk has travelled the constituency extensively, campaigning first for the Progressive Conservative nomination, then for the byelection.
“We went to every corner of the riding,” he says. “Pierson, Boissevain, Medora, Hamiota, we went to the Hutterite colonies, to some of the First Nations, we’ve been to every town.
“Working in Virden for the last 20 years, a lot of people in Virden know me, but I wanted to get out to the rest of the riding.”
Piwniuk says he’s excited about his new role as an MLA.
“It feels good—the first day I had to go to Winnipeg after two and a half hours sleep, and there was a lot to do, so it was the second day before it finally sunk in that I’m an MLA, and it’s exciting!
“I’m going to be very honored to represent the riding of Arthur-Virden and I’m going to be a voice for this corner of the province.
“We’re probably one of the only ridings that have oil, and we want to make sure that we are a voice for agriculture, the oil industry, small business and the diversity of our riding here.”
He said he is already looking forward to the next general election, after which he feels the Progressive Conservatives may be in a position to form government for the first time in 15 years.
“There are 19 of us in the PC caucus now, there are opportunities in Winnipeg, and I think there is great opportunity for us in the next election.
“We have had this NDP government for 14 years, and I think people are ready for a change.”
Piwniuk has been appointed the PC’s multiculturalism and literacy critic.
“I’m looking forward to those roles,” he says.
“I want to meet different cultures and meet some of the key people who are leaders in these communities. We have a lot of people from different cultures coming to Virden now—Filipinos, Americans and Ukranians who are coming for the jobs that are here, and that enriches our society.”